In common with other cultural shifts, Japanese garden design has not been immune to political and social upheaval, nor has it been immune to the opportunities that turmoil provides for change and innovation.

As outside pressure mounted on Japan to open up to trade with the West, opposition to the Tokugawa shogunate reached critical mass. With the dissolution of the feudal system and the restoration of the emperor in the new Meiji Era (1868-1912), many gardens in Japan faced near extinction.

As interest among the general public in traditional gardens dwindled, the landscape masterpieces of Kyoto were allowed to decay. In some instances, garden elements such as stone lanterns and particularly finely formed and grained rocks were sold off. As author Alex Kerr has written of the period, “Once the world of old Japan had vanished, it was time to recycle the fragments.”